For this Exercise I have chosen to analyse a fashion image from the Gucci Live Autumn/Winter 2017 Ready-to-Wear Collection, at : http://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/fall-2017-ready-to-wear/gucci/slideshow/collection#3. Along the main picture I have also included images of two details of the same look from the main page.
I think that the outfit selected, with its luxuriant, superabundant maximalism, can represent well some of the latest trends in fashion today. Gucci’s creative director, Michele Alessandro, presents for the first time a combined men/women collection, and this also is an interesting innovative element of the show: male and female models walk the runway together, and so the accent seems to be on an easy fluidity between genders which can freely exchange their outfits and implicitly their roles.
The overall first impression I get from this catwalk image is of extreme exuberance and eclecticism, great freedom in assembling disparate elements which look assorted at random, a general feeling of casual easy street style. An immediate association has been with the Seventies’ label Laura Ashley with its romantic floral frocks and 19th-century rural feel, but this is just one of the many possible inspirations that went in this super-abundant collection, aptly named “The Alchemist’s Garden” by Gucci’s creative director.
Printed cotton dresses made by Laura Ashley in the mid 1970s, on display at the Fashion Museum, Bath, 2013. From: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1970s_Laura_Ashley_dresses_03.jpg
But contrasting with the richness of decoration, if I now focus my attention on the silhouette I see naturally flowing lines not too tight to the body, moving swiftly around it without excess. There is an overall fluidity, underlined by the mid-calf length of the culottes which gently flare out. Also the platform sandals have a mid heel and contribute to a natural walk. The blouse just rests on the hips, not too fitted either, and even if the waist is belted the elongated silhouette is not interrupted. Shoulders are moderately wide and padded, soft and rounded, sleeves are long and straight. Every element emanates easiness and comfort, the overall shape is clean and lean.
Closely associated with the fluid silhouette are the moderate volumes built on the body by the light fabrics used for both the blouse and the culottes. All the attention is on the exquisitely ornamented details of this outfit and the gentle movement of garments is an invitation to slowly explore them. There is no excess fabric used here to form gathers or pleats, only that necessary to create the natural folds on the garments which accompany with grace the body while it moves and have a delicate drape.
In order to analyze the outfit in terms of colour, I have reduced the chromatic palette to sixteen hues using PaintShopPro and what I got is a definitely autumnal/winter palette of muted, toned-down, generally low-key colours on the warm side of the spectrum which create a traditional, understated effect. The brightest colour, a nuance of Burgundy red, stands out pleasantly.
But of course what really stands out in this Gucci’s look is the outstanding combination of patterns and decorative details which have many references and inspirations in an eccentric ‘more is better’ mood. The mix of possible cultural and historical influences appears so varied and rich that in many cases it’s only possible to make guesses, as if in a serious but free and playful game.
I have already mentioned Laura Ashley’s rustic floral frocks of the Seventies, but the roses printed on the culottes can also be a remembrance of vintage tapestries or refer back to one of many historic Gucci’s botanical prints, chosen from the fashion house rich scarf archive, or possibly be a contamination of all these different styles and still others. And the roses are interestingly combined with the Scottish tartan pattern of the blouse, further ornamented with delicate embroideries of floral twigs, or else with the Seventies zigzag stripes of the lurex stockings.
But the mix and accumulation of decorative details of this outfit goes well beyond patterns and prints: there is the glitter braided sweatband in Disco style, the long romantic haircut of the model girl (or is she a boy?), the wide flat collar (a 19th century accent perhaps?) with its sparkling little bow. And then of course the accessories: the animal studs leather belt bag with the double GG logo, the iconic bamboo handle hand bag with the fox head broche and the Egyptian beetle print, the gigantic bee and moth fashion rings, the Oriental/Forties inspired platform sandals.
Flowers, insects, Egyptian symbols, oriental influences, men’s wear, Forties, Seventies, old wallpapers, Eighties disco dance, romantic British gardens … it’s an incredible mix and match of elements and styles. The message seems to be that everything can be kept and used, fashion is a free game that is serious and playful at the same time, and the result is a bold, easy, eccentric street style which everyone can adopt. There is also a vintage aesthetic but interpreted in a contemporary way, without exclusion of materials and fabrics, for an opulent but also pop effect.
From the commercial point of view I think that a collection like this is very savvy: everybody can find something that he or she (does it matter? all is exchangeable) likes, maybe only a little accessory or a detail, and such an outfit is an implicit invitation to keep layering garments and adding bags, jewellery, scarves galore.
If I like it? I don’t know really and I don’t think this is too much important either. What I do admire is the incredible craft that goes into all these beautiful details, the ability to give life to such a complex vision and the rich cultural background that makes a collection like this possible. My instinct here is to learn the mix-and-match lesson, go back to my wardrobe and see what I can make out of it using the same free spirit!